Pairings: Still only hints…
Series: Reflections. Yet another mirror universe for the SGC.
Disclaimer: Stargate SG1 and all their characters belong to MGM, Showtime and Gekko Productions. But I think we all knew that, hmm? Art and Cooper are mine.
Notes: All words in italics are phonetic foreign words, mostly Greek
Spoilers: References aplenty to the majority of the third season here, consider yourselves warned…
Summary: Cooper gets a chance to prove his talents and Art bonds more closely with the people that are starting to mean so much to her.
++ Sam ++
“So what is it?”
The expected question earned Art an indulgent expression. I'd been alone in my lab for some time, but recognized her uneven tread when she had entered. Even after almost a week after the Healing Device had done its job, Art still walked a bit awkwardly. Janet had guessed the limp was psychosomatic and would correct itself with time. Nodding my head towards the small block of grayish metal on the table, I answered her question. “It's Naquada. It powers most of the Goa'uld technology. It's also the substance that's in my blood from Jolinar. As a heavy metal, it's denser than lead.”
I was almost beginning to expect the friendly and supportive touches from her, but was grateful for the warm hand on my shoulder anyway. “No wonder you got so excited when Colonel Makepeace handed it to you.”
“Yeah well, this is a particularly pure quantity and I need it to run some experiments.”
“Did he know that?” A dirty look flashed her way did not seem to have an effect on Art. “I can picture your single's ad right now. Smarter than the average bear, active at all hours. Turn ons, motorcycles, Naquada, astronomical rates of speed…”
For that, I reached out and thumped her in the thigh, earning a bark of laughter and an 'ow'. It was amazing how quickly she had begun ribbing me. Did I have some invisible sign on my forehead that read, 'torment me, I like it'? Just because Makepeace was good-looking and friendly meant nothing. Cooper nosed up against me, looking for attention and I distractedly obliged. Slowly Art's teasing grin faded as she watched me pet him. It was a strange, intent look that stilled my hands. “You say that stuff powers most of the Goa'uld technology?”
“Can I borrow it for a minute?” Before I could reply, she had snatched up the little bar of Naquada and stepped back. Dammit, she was more nimble than Daniel at stealing my technology bits. “Jeez, it is heavy you weren't kidding… Cooper, come,” she said in that tone she only used when she was instructing him. Instantly, he was standing in front of her, eyes riveted on her hands and face. I was captivated by their interplay, my experiments forgotten. There was a series of verbal exchanges, the Naquada shifting to different locations on Art's person until Cooper could pick it out with no error. She rewarded him with lavish praise and small treats that were habitually in her pocket. Finally, she came over to me and pressed the little bar into my hand.
“Here Sam, put it in your pocket and let him find it.” Once I had complied, Art again addressed Cooper. “Find the Naquada, Cooper. Find it.”
It was not much of a challenge and within seconds he was pawing urgently at my leg and whining in excitement. We continued the training games until Art finally shoved Cooper over and played with him roughly. Once he was panting with exhaustion, Art wearily climbed to her feet and fired me an intense look. “Can you gather a half-dozen or so pieces of the stuff powered by this Naquada? I need to arrange a training exercise.”
Two days later, I found myself participating in one of the stranger training exercises of my life. In my pockets were two Page Turning Devices, a matching Tablet Device and the power core to my Naquada reactor. Elsewhere on base, Art had the Hand Device, the Healing Device, two strips of the invaluable Naquada and Teal'c's Staff Weapon. Once he had learned of the exercise, the precious weapon had been willing handed over. Art had been properly respectful of the gesture and won points with the rest of us. When I spotted a familiar figure, I quickened my pace and called out, “Colonel Makepeace!”
He turned and those sharp eyes flickered from my face to the Tablet Device in my hand. For the thousandths time, I had to wonder if there wasn't something hiding in his impassive gaze. And for the thousandth time, I had to wonder if I didn't want there to be.
“Dare I ask?”
The wry humor made me grin. “I was hoping you would participate in a training exercise for Cooper sir.”
“Sergeant Goldston has trained him to detect Naquada and we need to prove he's accurate.” Yanking on of the Page Turning Devices from a pocket, I held it and the Tablet Device out to him. “Would you mind hiding these somewhere? The less they smell of Goldston or myself, the better.”
Smiling slightly, the big man took the objects from me and dropped them into his pockets. “No problem Major. When do they need to be in place?”
“The exercise begins at 1300 hours. Just be sure to remember where you put them just in case Cooper can't live up to his reputation. Thank you for participating sir.”
Tossing him a loose salute that was somehow an almost fond gesture, I continued on my way and tried to ignore the feel of his speculative gaze on me.
My next stop was even better. By sheer coincidence, I had ended up with the half of the base containing the Infirmary. There were scattered smiles from the staff when I walked in, and it amused me greatly that they automatically pointed me in Janet's direction. She was just stepping out of the back hallway and welcomed me with a smile. “He-ey.”
“Hey,” I acknowledged back.
“Thought I'd let you know that the background check has finally begun for my psychiatrist pal so that Cass can have someone to talk to freely.”
That made me smile. Cassandra was the teenager that was the sole survivor of a Goa'uld poisoning her offworld village. SG1 had brought her back to earth and Janet had adopted her. Having a professional shrink with a heart to be there for Cass would be great for the traumatized girl. Friendly-as-wet-cement Mackenzie, the SGC's shrink, impressed no one and Cass would benefit from someone better suited to her and Janet both. I brought myself back on track with a grin. “That's great, but right now I need your help with something.”
Firing the staff a mockingly serious look, I palmed one of the half-sphere shaped PTDs. “No comments from any of you.”
Janet squeaked in surprise when I stepped into her personal space and slipped both hands around her waist. She schooled her shock into sarcastic irony with practiced ease. “I assume you have a perfectly good explanation for manhandling me,” she commented dryly.
“Humor me.” Quickly, I tugged at the back edge of her uniform blouse until it made a neat little pocket. Still grinning at the amused consternation dancing in her dark eyes, I tucked the PTD under the waistband of her skirt. A quick pat assured me that it should stay put. “Congratulations Captain, you've just been volunteered to participate in a training exercise. Don't move that thing.” Hugely amused by all of this, I turned to the others. They looked as though they were trying to pretend none of this was funny. I singled out a cute male nurse and coaxed him over with a teasing finger. “Do me a favor,” I explained flirtatiously and held out the small reactor core. “Find a place to hide this where it will be difficult, but not impossible for a really smart dog to find.”
Comprehension dawned along with a smile across his features as he took the core. “Yes ma'am.”
Rubbing my hands together, I glanced around in satisfaction and ignored Janet's amused glower. “Well, I think I've wreaked enough havoc for today. As you were people.”
And to a chorus of amused 'yes ma'am's', I left to finish hiding the last PTD.
++ Art ++
“Attention all personnel. In ten minutes a K9 training exercise will commence. Some of you were randomly chosen to participate and I trust you have done so to the best of your abilities. Sergeant Goldston and Major Carter will be escorting Cooper about the base as though this were an actual raid. They will be armed with unloaded pistols and everyone is expected to play along. If there is anyone who may be uncomfortable with the dog's attentions, the commissary is designated as a safe zone for the duration of the exercise, which will last three hours.”
General Hammond's voice faded from the PA system and I could well imagine that the base was abuzz now. In my quarters, I finished checking over Cooper's shadrack harness and stood to finish gearing up. Florescent orange vests with 'K9' painted on chest and back marked Sam, myself and Cooper. After checking that my weapon was empty, I traded with Sam so that we could double-check one another. For the rest of the wait, I knelt to spoil my partner with affection until it was time to begin. “We'll show 'em, won't we boy?”
Anxious and excited from the upcoming challenge, he whined and nuzzled up to me.
“Okay Sergeant, you're ready to go.”
Sam was my backup for the 'raid' and was taking it mostly seriously. Two pairs of handcuffs hung from each of our belts and we were rarin' to go. A few more tense minutes passed by and Sam checked her watch. “It's time.”
“Lead the way Sergeant.”
“Cooper,” I instructed as I grabbed the leash. “Find the Naquada. Find it. Go!”
It was a good thing I had been working out, as he effortlessly yanked me out the door and down the hall. The hunt was on!
It was the most fun we had had in far too long. Cooper found various bits and pieces of Goa'uld technology, including some that was not part of the exercise. A lab technician was surprised to be the first 'arrest', but gamely let Sam cuff him while Cooper looked on proudly. Sam was impressed by his accurate nose until he suddenly paused in a featureless hall and began sniffing around. “It's blank concrete. Where could someone have hidden something here?”
“Patience Major, patience.”
For long moments, Cooper was baffled. Then his head snapped up and I knew he had it. Instantly, he was at full reach up the wall and pawing the concrete urgently. When I looked up, I had to smile. “Hey, give me a boost.”
Cupping her hands, Sam bodily hoisted me up the wall until I could just reach the thick pipes running the length of the hallway. Sure enough, there was a flat, textured object there. It turned out to be the Tablet Device.
“That Makepeace is a devious bastard,” Sam commented respectfully and I knelt to lavish praise on my partner. When we broke into Daniel's lab, he was initially shocked to find himself facing a pair of drawn pistols. But he let us arrest him and hand him off to a passing guard. There was so much random alien crap in his lab that I finally had to drag Cooper out of there. “C'mon Cooper, we only have an hour left.”
By coincidence, the Infirmary was our last stop. There was only the reactor core and a PTD missing, and only fifteen minutes to find them. We were running out of time. “This is a raid, nobody move!” Instantly, everybody complied as Sam and I moved into the big room. “Find the Naquada Cooper. Go!”
We were all tired and keenly felt the approaching deadline. All business, Cooper ignored Doctor Fraiser and nosed around urgently. He quickly zeroed in on the reactor core in a cabinet in a storeroom. Sam looked disgruntled that it had been so easy.
“One more Cooper, you can do it.”
He so desperately wanted to please me; I could see it in his eyes. But when he suddenly went for Fraiser, I sensed he had given up. That is, until he bypassed her greeting hands and began sniffing her over. Instantly, I brought up the pistol and flashed the small woman an apologetic smile. “Sorry Doc, hands up.” She did so with a long-suffering sigh. Cooper worked his way around to her back where he sat and began pawing her in an inappropriate place. “Major Carter, is the suspect covered?”
“Suspect covered,” she replied in a voice tight with repressed hilarity. Fraiser just glowered.
“And you said Colonel Makepeace was devious with his hiding spots,” I murmured only just loud enough for the two of them to hear. Only after Fraiser's mouth curled in a grin did I finally call off my enthusiastic dog. “Cooper, sit.”
The pistol was holstered as I swallowed hard and started to frisk her. Where was the damn thing? I had never expected to be this close to the woman and distractedly noticed how nice she smelled. Desperately, I tried to ignore that thought and the feel of her warm flesh under my hands. And in the small of her back I found what Cooper had worked so hard for. Grinning into the doctor's warmly amused eyes, I pitched my voice so that the whole room could hear. “Time Major?”
“Two hours and fifty-two minutes.”
Tucking my hand down the back of Fraiser's waistband, I saw something flash across her dark eyes. For an instant, my heart was in my throat and heat rushed across my skin.
++ Janet ++
The abrupt and brief burn of feeling in Art's sunset eyes startled and scared me. But not half as much as the answering flare of heat in my own body did. Oh, the feelings she evoked in me… Darya would laugh and say, 'I told you so'. Since I had initiated the process of involving my old psychiatrist pal in the SGC only this afternoon, she easily came to mind. After triumphantly tossing the body-warmed PTD to Sam, Art gently drew my hands in to the small of my back where my skin still tingled from her touch. The icy grip of metal on my wrists shocked me. “You're under arrest, Captain Fraiser, for possession of a Naquada-powered device. Come with me.”
With a gentle grip on my cuffed wrists, Art escorted me past my amused staff and down the hall. In a conference room near the Gateroom waited Hammond, Daniel and Lieutenant Brady from biology.
“They got you too, huh?”
I managed to smile back at Daniel while Art fumbled with the cuffs. “Yes. Thanks to Sam planting that thing on me earlier today.”
With a huff of amusement, Sam ignored my dirty look and brushed by me to dump her bag of goodies next to the General. “That's every Device we planted and a few more besides. Technically, Daniel didn't have any of the target Devices, but we figured arresting him was good reinforcement for Cooper.”
“Excellent. Is there anything we need to go over for a debriefing Sergeant?”
“No sir, we'll just need to keep practicing to keep his skills sharp.”
“Is he ready to meet a host?” Art stiffened in alarm and he quickly reassured her. “Not like that soldier. We received a visitor about half an hour ago. If you get a strong grip on your partner there, I'll call him in.”
Art sat in a chair to curl a hand into Cooper's harness as well as the grip on his leash. The fascination she kept calling up in me was showing no signs of abating and I was startled when Sam bumped up against me like a friendly cat. “Sorry if I embarrassed you.”
“Oh, that's okay. It was for a good cause.”
With a few terse words into the phone, Hammond settled in to wait. In only moments the door swung open and Sam lit up. “Dad!”
An answering grin spread across Jacob Carter's face as his daughter pounced on him. “Sam, how are you?”
“This is a wonderful surprise. I'm great.”
Just as I suspected, Cooper laid his ears flat and glared in a predatory way at Jacob. There was no surprise on Art's face, so she must have been told about his being a host for the symbiote, Selmak. Cancer had convinced Jacob that joining the ranks of the Goa'uld-like good guys, the Tok'ra, was a better fate than death. Even if meant having an ancient, serpentine creature that could take over his body at will, living under his spine. Jacob held Sam at arm's length and smiled indulgently. “Dare I ask?”
It took a moment for us to realize that he was referring to the day-glo orange vest she was still wearing. “Yeah, you look like you killed a traffic cone for its hide,” Art remarked. “I see the fashion sense runs in the family.” A startled quiet fell over the room as Art's shocked expression morphed into red-faced embarrassment. “I said that out loud, didn't I?” Scrubbing at her rosy cheeks, Art muttered under her breath, “inside thought, inside thought, inside thought.”
I couldn't help myself and snerked with repressed humor. The strange, almost primitive-looking clothes the Tok'ra habitually wore were a little silly looking among all the stark uniforms on base. Jacob was in a linen tunic with patches of some kind of reptilian animal hide and soft boots. My small, strangled noise set Sam off and soon we were both laughing out loud. Jacob gave his daughter an indulgently amused grin before turning the expression on the mortified Art. Taken aback but pleased by the expression, she hesitantly smiled back.
“You must be Art. Sam and General Hammond have told me about you. And this, of course, is Cooper.” His smile deepened and he added in a dry tone, “at least you didn't make any naugahide comments.” Art's expression became downright delighted as he pitched his voice into a bad stage whisper. “The snake really hates those.”
That one made even Daniel laugh and General Hammond release one of those short huffs of humor usually reserved for O'Neill. It wasn't often; if ever that hosts teased about the creatures they shared their bodies with. As if conjured up by the witty repartee, O'Neill appeared in the doorway with a look of curiosity. “Why are Daniel and Carter always laughing around you Goldston?”
That made all of us laugh even harder, including Lieutenant Brady. O'Neill merely rolled his eyes and walked into the room to sit on the table beside Daniel.
“Good to see you again Jack,” Jacob smiled as he wiped tears of merriment from the corner of his eye. Then he turned his amused gaze back to Art and she grinned almost challengingly at him. “So, why are they always laughing around you?”
For a moment she had to think, the dark blue eyes unfocused with concentration. Then an evil, mischievous grin spread over her dusky features like a sunrise. Her tone was droll when she replied, “Jimmy, Shaq and Michael here are an endless source of inspiration sir.”
A long beat passed while we processed that one and Art's amusement deepened while she waited. Then General Hammond chuckled in amusement, “I get it. Jimmy Carter, Shaq O'Neill and Michael Jackson. Excellent play on words Sergeant.”
While we all dissolved into hysterics yet again, Art dropped into a deeply mocking bow and basked in the attention.
++ Sam ++
Later in the Commissary, both Art and my Dad were still bantering back and forth like they'd known each other for years. I swear he was flirting with her and she was four years younger than me for crying out loud.
“So we've been looking for her for some two hours now, scared out of our minds, even her brother Mark was terrified.” I knew this story like the back of my hand… hell I was its star, but couldn't he have found a better place then around my coworkers to tell it? Art was howling with laughter as my Dad animatedly continued. “So an employee finally takes us to the nurse's station and there she is, eating ice cream and flirting with the whole staff. Didn't even miss us!”
Struggling to get a grip on herself, Art leaned over to grab Dad's arm and gasp, “well, it is the Happiest Place on Earth!”
Now they were both cracking up and I was just plain embarrassed. With my head in my hands, I was taken aback by the friendly arm around my shoulders. When I turned my head, the merriment in Art's eyes made me grin despite myself. “Don't sweat it Sam,” she cajoled lightly. “I've done stuff a thousand times worse than wander off at Disneyland. The-eh mou! My brothers wanted to string me up on a regular basis, I was such a troublemaker!” She shifted her attention to include my Dad and continued in that same, jolly voice. “See, my sister, Zo, was too smart to get caught, being the devious artist in the family. No puns on the name, of course.”
“Of course,” I drawled sarcastically and they both chuckled. It seems my faint annoyance had finally registered when Dad suddenly became a bit more serious.
“So, Art. George wanted me to help you train Cooper. Any ideas?”
“A few. How long can you be here?”
“I have almost two days. Will that be good?”
“For the basics, yes. But he'll need reinforcement to really pick up the new trick. Will you be able to come back within the next couple of weeks?”
“If not me, then I'm sure we can send somebody.”
“Great! So, the first thing I need is a signal for him,” Art mused thoughtfully and sprawled back in her chair to eye her partner speculatively. Cooper immediately perked up, his wary eyes leaving Dad to focus eagerly on her. “Come Cooper.” Instantly, he was on his feet and she buried her hands in his ruff to pet him lovingly and leaned over him. “Good boy,” she crooned softly and his tail wagged. “You've been behaving so well, how about a new trick? Hmm?”
That earned a slobbery lick and a whining bark in accompaniment to his eager wiggling. Dad and I chuckled as she continued to spoil him until he was relaxed. Then the dark eyes fired Dad a mischievous look.
“So you call your symbiote a snake?”
“Only when I'm being a pain in the neck,” Dad drawled and we chuckled. “The analogy works. Why?”
“Okheeah,” Art said softly in her beautiful native tongue. “It means 'viper' in Greek. Too obvious?”
“As long as you don't run into any Goa'uld System Lords impersonating the Greek pantheon,” Dad smiled and we both gave him long looks for that. Darn perverse host humor. “Sorry. Okheeah will do just fine for a control word.”
“Done. Now I need a hand signal.”
The rest of the evening was spent hammering out details and teaching them to Cooper. The hand gesture consisted of holding the fingers of one hand like a loose bundle of sticks, or an open-mouthed Goa'uld, and weaving it back and forth like a hunting snake. Cooper was to lower his head and swing it back and forth if he smelled something like Dad. Eventually, I yawned and Cooper licked me across the mouth. “Bleach, Cooper,” I complained unconvincingly and he did it again. That earned laughter and Art stretched like a cat.
“I'm exhausted. Will we see you tomorrow Jacob?”
A grin eased his face and we both smiled back. “Yes, unless something comes up. I'll say goodbye just in case.”
It was still so good to be able to hold him close after so many years of estrangement. My mother's death when I was sixteen had effectively torn my family apart for fifteen years before cancer and Selmak had brought us back together again. Dad's eyes were gentle as we stood close for a long moment.
“You look good Sam. I'm glad.”
“Thank you. I think I like having a dog around.”
I felt Art's smile, even though I had my back to her. Dad squeezed me again before going to my new teammate. “You'll take good care of her?”
“With pleasure sir.”
“Good.” And with that, my once-aloof and stoic father swept my friend up into a big bear hug that made her laugh and hug him back. “Welcome to the family.”
Her arms tightened convulsively and I couldn't resist going over to wrap myself around them both. When Art did speak, her voice was low and husky with emotion. “I'll do you proud sir. Both of you.”